Remote working is one of the new norms that have been pushed forward by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic around the world. It was already an expanding trend, but Covid-19 has accelerated the growth of remote working in a significant degree.
Other than freelancers, not many traditional employees had the privilege of working from home. Employers found comfort in physical management and supervision of their workforce, rather than connecting to them from a different location.
While Covid-induced lockdown imposed several restrictions on our lives, the opportunity of remote working at the comfort of our homes might be seen as a silver lining. It is allowing workers from flexibility in their daily routines and has also proven more productive for employers.
Will things go back to normal, once the pandemic is truly behind us? Some companies have already transitioned back to their regular working arrangements, but many are still offering remote working opportunities to their workers.
This suggests that a paradigm shift is upon us. The future of work was already in the process of changing, but the global Covid-19 crisis has expedited that rapidly. In today’s piece, we will try to analyse the effects remote working has had on the work culture and try to forecast the future.
What Are The Most Advantageous Aspects Of Remote Working?
From the employers’ point of view, remote working opens up a myriad of recruitment opportunities. The labour supply has no geographical confinements, so you can look anywhere in the world to get the right person for the right job.
In some of the cases, the differences in living expenditures could also come into the benefit of the employers. If the employee comes from a country with low living expenditures compared to the employers’ location, then their wage bill would shrink substantially.
A Harvard Business Review study concludes that remote working can prompt employees to work more, thus resulting in a considerable boost in productivity. With virtual collaboration platforms getting better and better, the gap between remote working and physical working is diminishing.
Almost all of us can relate to unpleasant commute experiences to work. It takes up a sizable portion of our daily schedules and also constitutes a sizeable slice of our budget. Not to mention, it is a source of stress that you can live without.
Researchers from Sweden’s Umea University identified longer commute hours as one of the factors responsible for divorces. According to them, families are 40% more likely to split up if there is at least one member, who commutes for more than 45 minutes a day.
Remote working saves you the trouble of driving or catching public transport to work every morning. You can slot that time into your personal routine, and do something refreshing, like having a walk, reading a book, or doing some yoga.
And of course, with coronavirus cases continuing to soar across the globe, remote working has come has a blessing for employees, as it enabled them to earn a living without putting their own and their loved ones’ healths at risk.
The ability of a scattered workforce to connect and do their work would be a gamechanger in the future. No matter the crisis, remote working platforms would allow you to stay operational. Thanks to technological advancements, the barriers for remote working is fading away day by day.
Promotes Emotional Bonding Among Colleagues
It might sound a bit antithetical, but the truth is, working from distance can actually help colleagues to come closer and gain more insights on each other’s personal lives. This sensitisation of working relationships would promote better teamwork going forward.
Previously, the socialisation between co-workers was mostly occasional. Apart from office parties and getaways, the opportunity to catch up on each other’s lives was fairly limited. But, working from home has granted us a peek into the personal lives of our workmates.
You get to get a glimpse of the natural, non-corporate state of your colleague when he/she connects to the office Zoom call. Often, you could see their kids or pets running into the screens. This gives you an opportunity to humanise professional relationships.
Participating in regular remote working sessions would result in a spontaneous exchange of personal details between employees. The exposure to the different avenues of each other’s lives would help them see each other in a whole new light and create a genuine connection.
This sense of empathy is crucial in building a working environment devoid of mental stress. When you feel that you are surrounded by people who are supportive of you and care for you, you would feel at home and be able to motivate yourself to give your 100% for the team.
Faster Internet Will Make Remote Working More Popular
Swiss online meeting scheduler Doodle says it reported a 42% increase in online meetings between the months of February and March in 2020. This reflects the office to home transition incited by the global Covid-19 breakout.
Now, the question is, does this indicate a situational necessity or this hints towards a common business practice in the future. With 5g mobile service nearing a worldwide implement, internet speed will improve considerably in household levels, which should have a positive impact on remote working.
An Amdocs survey found that 35% of the participants that took part in its survey believed that 5g would offer superior video conferencing options. 32% said that they are confident it would bring better video training and development possibilities.
More importantly, 61% said that they expect 5g to make remote working easier than ever before. If that’s the case, the next-generation workforce will experience negligible differences between virtual and physical workplaces.
That said, an imminent transformation to 100% remote working from the traditional office setup seems unlikely. It is not easy to overhaul the complete corporate culture overnight. So, we expect remote working to phase in, instead of a sudden takeover.
Jobs Are Becoming More Suitable For Remote Working
If you are not an entrepreneur or an IT professional, you might incline to think that remote working is not for you. Your industry is not compatible with the idea of remote working, and you would be stuck attending 9 am-5 pm office hours for the rest of your life.
In all likelihood, that is not going to be the case at all. Remote working is snowballing its way into more and more industries, with businesses and enterprises becoming more technology dependant. So, most desk jobs could transition to remote working in the future.
Employers Are More Open To Remote Working Now
When remote working came along at first, employers had their doubts. Many believed that remote working would make it difficult for supervisors to manage their staff. As a result, it would lead to a dip in overall productivity. Over time, that line of thinking proved wrong.
During the lockdown period, remote working presented itself as an efficient working medium. This prompted many employers to change their mindsets on the prospect of remote working. Companies like Meet Edgar and Trello, for instance, have shifted to a 100% remote workforce.
These companies have been thriving financially, which makes the case for remote working becoming a mainstay in the future work culture. Remote working enables employees to pluck talents from all over the world and give them ample flexibility to draw out the best from them.
Even though they are unlikely to switch to a remote worker majority anytime soon, international giants like Dell and Wells Fargo are also hiring full-time remote workers, including offshore employees. All of this indicates that remote working is here to stay.
Could Remote Working Lead To An Unbalanced Work Schedule?
Up until now, we have been quite upbeat about the possibilities of remote working in the future. However, we need to look at both sides of the coin to make a proper assessment. Unfortunately, remote working has its own share of downsides.
In your first days of working from home, you would enjoy the freedom of working in a comfortable environment, surrounded by your family members and pets. But, you could soon find yourself in a state of mental confinement and develop paranoia.
Remote working could affect your working hours. If you are more habituated to working in an office space, you might find it difficult to motivate yourself to work at home without any physical supervision. The opposite could also happen.
Some workers don’t stick to their regular routine and work past their pre-set working hours. Many people feel nervous to ask for sick leaves, even if they are actually sick. They fail to justify seeking a day off since they are already at home.
Those who are putting in extra shifts at work while working from home are often under the impression that they need to make up for their office absence. Since they are out of their supervisor’s visibility, they need to walk the extra mile to impress them.
As employees keep on working beyond regular office hours to reassure their superiors that they are working hard at home, it is taking up their personal time and destabilising the work-life balance even more than before.
Metlife Australia noticed a similar tendency in their staff when they are working from home. Many workers refuse to clock off and continue working past their normal duty hours. Higher officials of the insurance firm stepped in and set a fixed working hour to stop workers from overworking.
However, not all companies all share this ethical responsibility. Many would like to prioritise their business over their employees’ social life. So, if you can’t strictly regulate your working hours and feel the motivation to work, remote working can unbalance your social and professional life.
Remote Working Can Worsen The Effect Of Automation In First World Economies
Companies are trimming the size of their staffs, as they set sight on maximising their profit base. Many labour-intensive jobs have already fallen victim to automation. As a result, this would trigger an increase in unemployment rates in advanced economies.
Oxford Economics has laid out a grim forecast for manufacturing jobs, It predicts that by 2030, 20 million people plying their trade in manufacturing sectors around the world would lose their job to robots. With widescale remote working, the first world unemployment situation would get worse.
As employers will have access to a vast employment pool without any geographical boundaries they can look for a lot of parameters. They can look for cheaper but equally productive alternatives for their workers in foreign nations.
For example, let’s say two people have the same skillsets and the same level of expertise. One of them lives in New York, USA, while the other person lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In Dhaka, the cost of living is 64.71% less than that of New York.
This puts the guy living in Bangladesh in quite an advantageous position. He can charge significantly less than the New York guy because he lives in an inexpensive city. This would entice employees to go for the person living in Dhaka.
So, remote working combined with automation could push the level of unemployment in stronger economies to unprecedently high levels. This would give birth to a plethora of socio-economic problems in those countries.
Remote working is not a temporary solution, it is here to stay. In the near future, office spaces might shrink considerably, as an increasing number of people continues to work from their homes. With better internet and technology, the trend of remote working will go upwards from now on.